This is a great time of year to be thankful for what we have, where we have been, and what the future holds. Although the Chargers have lost their way a bit in recent years, the month of December still holds such incredible promise! This advent calendar is an attempt to hearken back to these days of December joy. Each day will bring a new advent from the Bolts’ history that makes it wonderful to be a Chargers fan.
Dec. 15: Retired Chargers Numbers
It’s a normal tendency for people around the holidays to look back on the past, feel a little nostalgic, and bring back all those warm, fuzzy feelings that go along with your favorite memories over the years.
The same sensation tends to happen from time to time for sports fans, as well. When you are able to take a step back and realize that you are watching a generational-talent play for your team, it makes you look back at the other greats. You reminisce on the other players who used to make you jump for joy and force you jaw to the floor with their sensational play.
For the Chargers, there’s a quartet of former players, with their numbers rightfully retired, that help manifest the nostalgia in Chargers fans at a moment’s notice. Those players are: #14 quarterback Dan Fouts, #19 wide receiver Lance Alworth, #21 running back LaDainian Tomlinson, and #55 linebacker Junior Seau.
In the spirit of the holidays, let’s all take some time to reminisce about these legendary Chargers, the memories they gave to the fans, and the path they blazed for current and future Chargers to come.
#14 - QB Dan Fouts
Fouts, at this point in time, is still the first name that comes to mind when you think about great Chargers quarterbacks...for now. The San Francisco-native wasn’t the most highly-rated prospect coming out of high school but he did manage to accept a scholarship offer from the University of Oregon where he would go on to set 19 school records, including total career passing yards (5,995). However, in three years as a starter, Fouts never threw more touchdowns than interceptions in a single season. His numbers were:
1970 - 188/361 for 2,390 yards with 16 TD vs 24 INT
1971 - 123-247 for 1,564 yards with 9 TD vs 11 INT
1972 - 171/348 for 2,041 yards with 12 TD vs 19 INT
However, after being drafted in the third round of the 1973 NFL Draft, Fouts would flip the script of his career in a number of ways. From 1979 to 1982, he would led the Chargers to the playoffs, twice making it to the AFC title game in ‘80 and ‘81.
He would also go on to lead the NFL in passing in four-straight years and make the Pro Bowl six times from 1979-83 and then again in 1985. In three consecutive season, Fouts set the single-season passing mark with 4,082 in 1979, 4,715 in ‘80, and 4,802 in ‘81.
He would end his career with over 40,000 passing yards, making him, at the time, only the third player in history to achieve the feat.
Fouts was elected to the Pro Football Hallf of Fame in 1993.
#19 - WR Lance Alworth
Alworth entered the 1962 NFL Draft where he was drafted with the eighth-overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers out of the University of Arkansas. He was also the ninth pick in the second round of the AFL Draft in the same year by the Dallas Cowboys who eventually traded his rights to the San Diego Chargers for a trio of players. He fortunately opted to sign with the Chargers over the 49ers.
In his rookie season, number 19 had just 10 catches in four games played, though three were for touchdowns. However, it was his second season in the pros that really set the tone for the rest of his career. Alworth went on to set franchise records in receptions (61), yards (1,205), and touchdowns (11) en route to winning the AFL Most Valuable Player Award.In the AFL Championship victory over the Boston Patriots, Alworth had four receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.
From 1964-69, Alworth broke his own franchise records several times over, including the mark for consecutive season with 1,000 yards receiving with seven (has since been broken by Jerry Rice with 11). He was also the first player with back-to-back seasons where he averaged 100+ receiving yards per game.
Alworth would go on to finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys when he was traded away from San Diego in 1971.
#21 - LaDainian Tomlinson
Tomlinson, the fifth-overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, came to the Chargers after authoring one of the most prolific college careers for a running back in history. In 1999, Tomlinson set the single-game rushing record against UTEO when he rushed for 406 yards. That record would stand until current Chargers running back, Melvin Gordon, broke it in 2014 when he rushed for 408 yards against Nebraska. Tomlinson was a consensus First-Team All-American in 2000 while also bringinghome the Doak Walker Award (nation’s best running back) and Jim Brown Trophy. He was also name the MVP of that year’s Senior Bowl.
Tomlinson ran for 1,236 yards during his rookie season as the Chargers posted a 5-11 record. Two years later, he became the first player in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards and collect 100 receptions in the same season.
In 2005 against the Oakland Raiders, Tomlinson became the player to run, catch, and throw for a touchdown in the same game. He finished that year with over 1,800 total yards and 20 touchdowns.
Now the 2006 season is what everyone in the country remembers most about LT, not just Chargers fans. In that season, he set an NFL record by scoring 14 touchdowns in the span of four games, 16 in five, and 19 in six. He became the first player to score three touchdowns in three-straight games and then became the first to do it in four.
By the end of the season, LT would go on to set the all-time record for touchdowns in a season with 31 (28 rushing, 2 receiving). His 2,323 yards from scrimmage would also set their own record. On January 5th, 2007, Tomlinson was named the NFL MVP after he received 44 of the 50 votes.
Number 21 was named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team after he led the NFL in rushing through the 2000’s with 12,490.
Tomlinson would finish his career with the New York Jets before signing back with the Chargers on June 18th of 2012 so he could officially retire a Charger. At the time, LT ranked fifth in NFL history with 13,684 career rushing yards and second in career touchdowns with 162. His number was retired in 2015.
#55 - Junior Seau
Seau attended USC where he was a unanimous first-team All-American selection in 1989 after posting 19 sacks as a junior. After three years in college, Seau declared for the NFL Draft where he was chosen in the first round with the fifth-overall pick in 1990.
The “Tasmanian Devil”, as he was affectionately called, was a fan-favorite from his very first season as a Charger. Seau played 15 of 16 games as a rookie and was named an alternate for the 1991 Pro Bowl. In his sophomore campaign, Seau had 129 tackles and seven sacks which earned him the first of his 12 consecutive Pro Bowl appearances.
In 1994, he would record a career-high 155 tackles and be named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year while also leading his team to an appearance in Super Bowl XXIX. In that year’s AFC Championship Game, Seau recorded 16 tackles in a 17-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in what some still call one of number 55’s best games of his career.
In 2002, Seau’s final year with the Chargers, he collected a career-low 83 tackles and missed his final Pro Bowl due to an ankle injury.
On January 13th, 2010, Seau announced his retirement on national television. On September 16th, 2012, the Chargers retired his number 55 during the regular season opener against the Tennessee Titans.